Coliform found in creeks, river

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Saturday, March 22, 2014

ALTHOUGH the Inayawan sanitary landfill has been closed for almost two years, nearby bodies of water still contain high levels of coliform bacteria and other toxic substances.

The findings of the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD) water quality monitoring raise the need for sturdy linings for landfills, phase out of open dumpsites, and sewage and septage treatment.

Most of the local government units (LGUs) in Metro Cebu have closed their dumpsites and established landfills. Those that do not have landfills pay private companies that operate landfills to dispose of their wastes.


While most have complied with Republic Act (RA) 9003 or the Solid erage and septage treatment facilities.


The nongovernment organization Philippine Earth Justice Center (PEJC) threatened to sue LGUs that have not complied with RA 9003 but its founder, lawyer Gloria Estenzo-Ramos, said the group lacked volunteer lawyers to take up the task.

In October last year, the MCWD found coliform bacteria beyond allowable limits in water samples taken from Inayawan White Road and the landfill.

MCWD monitoring also revealed high coliform levels in creeks and rivers in Sitio Buli in Duljo Fatima, Forbes Bridge in Pasil, and Tayud-Tagonol in Basak Pardo, all in Cebu City; and in Cordova.

The maximum limit for total coliform for inland waters is 10,000 most probable number per 100 milliliters (MPN/ml).

Coliform levels in the monitored bodies of water range from 20,000 MPN/ml in Cordova to 16,000,000 MPN/ml from Tayud-Tagonol in Basak Pardo.


Coliform bacteria can be found in human and animal wastes.

The biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), or the rate at which organisms use oxygen, of water samples from Duljo Fatima, Inayawan White Road, Inayawan landfill, Pasil, Basak Pardo and Cordova exceeded standards.

The allowable limit for BOD in inland waters is 70 milligrams per liter. A high BOD is an indication of organic pollution.

In some samples, levels of toxic substances like arsenic, cadmium and chromium also exceeded tolerable levels.

Water in lakes, rivers and creeks infiltrate the groundwater table. If these waters are contaminated, the groundwater source is under threat.


David S. Rojas Jr. of the University of the Philippines National Hydraulic Research Center said leachate or garbage juice from landfills and open dumpsites affect groundwater reservoirs.

Rojas presented the results of a study that looked into how the Payatas garbage dump affected the La Mesa, Novaliches water reservoir during a groundwater management workshop hosted by MCWD last March 6 and 7.

The study involved a 30-year simulation, which showed that leachate from Payatas will contaminate subsurface water over time, although rain and distance may lessen the concentration of contaminants.

RA 9003 prohibits the use of open dumpsites within three years or up to 2003. The law provides that open dumpsites existing in 2003 be converted to controlled dumpsites, which have no liners but have drainage components for leachate control.

Controlled dumpsites were to be phased out after five years or by 2008. The law recommends sanitary landfills as final disposal site of residual wastes, materials that cannot be placed in composts or recycled.


Lapu-Lapu City closed its open dumpsite in Sitio Soong, Barangay Mactan in 2010 and has contacted a private landfill in the City of Naga to dispose of its wastes. The City also established a materials recovery facility on the island of Olango.

The town of Minglanilla also partnered with FDR Con, based in the City of Naga, for its waste collection and disposal. FDR Con maintains and operates a materials recovery and composting facility in Barangay Pangdan.

Last year, Mandaue City converted an open dumpsite in Barangay Umapad into a sanitary landfill and a transfer station for wastes collected from the barangays.

The former open dump is located near the Mactan Channel.

Engr. Ricardo Mendoza, head of the Mandaue City Solid Waste Management Board, said a landfill liner was put in place to prevent leachate or garbage juice from seeping into the ground.

A water treatment facility was also established to treat leachate.


While work on the landfill was ongoing, Mandaue’s wastes were brought to a private landfill in Barangay Polog, Consolacion, which is owned and operated by Asian Energy Systems Corp. Cebu City closed the Inayawan sanitary landfill in 2012 and brought its wastes to the same facility.

The Consolacion Municipal Government also pays Asian Energy Systems to handle the town’s garbage.

Eddie Llamedo, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) 7 spokesperson, said Talisay City and the towns of Asturias and Balamban also have sanitary landfills.

The Talisay City landfill is located in the mountain barangay of Tapul.


Llamedo said the landfill has complied with standards set in RA 9003.

But recently, garbage dumped at the landfill caught fire, prompting City Councilor Antonio Bacaltos Jr., head of the committee on environment, to propose that the local government hire a private firm to handle the city's garbage.

Residents in Barangay Maghaway, Talisay City also complained against the trucks that transported wastes to the landfill.

Maghaway Barangay Captain Victor Cabatas said the trucks spilled leachate on the road and emitted foul odor. Residents also said garbage trucks without cover accidentally left trash on the road.

Under the law, landfills must be located at least 300 meters away from a lakes, ponds, public parks and airports, and more than 90 meters away from rivers. It must not be situated near groundwater sources.


To ensure that leachate or garbage juice does not seep into groundwater sources and contaminate bodies of water, a landfill must have a durable plastic liner over a clay lining.

RA 9003 also requires regular monitoring of groundwater and surface waters.

Aside leaking landfills and dumpsites, MCWD also worries over the disposal of wastes collected by private septic tank cleaners. To address the issue, the water district has identified a lot in Cordova for a septage treatment facility.

MCWD assistant manager for operations Ernie Delco said they hope to have the septage treatment facility operational about two years from now.

Septage management is one of the priority programs of MCWD, along with watershed management, pipeline expansion and improving its water distribution system.

The Cebu City Government, on the other hand, is planning to establish a pilot sewerage treatment facility at the North Reclamation Area with the help of the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 22, 2014.

Local news

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